Since founding Run JB five years ago, by far the most rewarding part of the journey has been watching hundreds of our beginner runners finish their first ever Parkrun. We are fortunate to live close to what must be one of the most scenic Parkrun routes in the country. Lydiard Park in Swindon has played host to the unforgettable culmination to our Couch to 5K beginners course since 2012. It is always an emotional experience, with tears of joy and relief not uncommon afterwards, amid a wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie and an overwhelming sense of achievement for those who doubted whether they would ever be capable of completing the course just a few months prior.
However, they always do themselves proud and often surprise themselves in the process. It is largely because the hard work has already been done in training, and they follow our advice in how to prepare for the big day. Here are my top 10 tips for anyone approaching their first Parkrun.
Before the Run
1) Eat a decent breakfast - e.g. porridge or another wholegrain cereal ideally at least an hour beforehand. Avoid protein (e.g. traditional cooked breakfast) as this takes longer to digest and may leave your belly feeling heavy and unsettled whilst running
2) Make sure you bring your barcode! You've worked so hard to get here, you want your name on that results list!
3) Get there early to avoid stress, to give yourself plenty of time to go to toilet and familiarise yourself with the course set-up and of course, warm up properly!
4) Warm-up properly with gentle dynamic exercises which mobilise the whole body with added emphasis on the lower body. At Run JB we do this as a group so there is one less thing to worry about.
5) Position yourself at the right place in the starting group - there are time pacers - don't go to far forward or you will spend the first few minutes being overtaken which can be intimidating and annoying. If your main aim is simply to finish, then to play it safe position your self towards the back, which will also help with your pacing at the start.
During the Run
5) Don't go off to fast. Repeat - don't go off too fast! It is very easy to get carried away with the atmosphere, the crowd and those running around you. It is very important to stick to your normal steady pace (at which you can maintain a conversation). Go off too fast and you will regret it as the lactic build up in your legs will return to haunt you later in the race
6) Relax - aim to keep the EFFORT steady throughout. This means you should expect to go slower on the uphill sections and faster on the downhill sections - but that your breathing should remain as constant as possible throughout.
7) Enjoy it! you have done the hard work over the last couple of months in training, and have every reason to be confident. Relax and enjoy the atmosphere and your big moment!
After the Run
8) At the finish, don't forget to collect your place token and take it with your barcode to get them scanned. This ensures your time will correctly appear in the official results.
9) Go for a coffee with your fellow runners and share stories of your amazing achievement!
10) Make sure you take a photo with your fellow runners after crossing the finish line and share it on social media. Some of our ladies have never had as many likes for a photo as the ones they took after their first Parkrun. Remember it's not about showing off - it's all about inspiring friends and family to follow in your footsteps. You can become a positive role model and your influence can be very powerful on those around you.